South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, has criticized the United Nations for acting as a “parallel government” and for sheltering rebels and weapons at UN bases across the country. Meanwhile, the government has ramped up its campaign against rebels, capturing several key cities. These developments come as tens of thousands are being displaced across the country and reports of ethnic killings are trickling in.
Failed coup at the heart of South Sudan conflict
South Sudan has been in a state of civil war over the last several weeks. The crisis developed when soldiers staged a failed coup, purportedly at the behest of former deputy Riek Machar. Since then rebels captured several key towns and the country appeared to be on the verge of falling into a full-scale civil war.
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The South Sudanese government, however, appears to have gotten a handle on the situation. Following the capture of several key towns from rebels, the government has forced Riek Machar to the negotiating table. Still, negotiations between the two parties have been tense, and for now appear to be deadlocked.
Meanwhile, fighting has continued on. It is believed that several thousand people have been killed and as many as 500,000 have been displaced. South Sudan is heavily divided along ethnic lines and much of the fighting has since fallen along those lines. There have also been numerous reports of targeted ethnic killings.
United Nations getting no love from government
With over 70,000 South Sudanese people seeking shelter in UN bases, there’s a risk that some rebel forces could try to seek refuge, infiltrate, or otherwise use the bases to their advantages. The United Nations has claimed, however, that it has a zero-tolerance policy in regards to weapons within the camp. The UN has emphasized that it is impartial and is there to provide humanitarian aid.
The United Nations has 8 bases spread across South Sudan, and over 7,000 peacekeepers are on the ground. Following the intense media pressure that surrounded the Darfur crisis, South Sudan has become one of the biggest focal points for the United Nations. Ever since the United Nations’ failure to prevent the Rwandan genocide, the organization has been working to avoid further lapses.
Now, the UN is finding itself facing strong criticisms from the very government it has been trying to help. President Kiir claimed that the UN has set itself up with a parallel government and answers to no one, including his government. The UN has continued to emphasize that it is not supporting rebels and is trying to support an independent and stable South Sudan.